When they joined their Rice teammates on the field at Disch-Falk after falling in the regional final to Texas, Jared Rogers and Mike Ojala had every reason to expect it was their last time together as teammates on a baseball team.
However fate and the Florida Marlins have conspired to place them again on the same diamond, at least for the time being. Ojala (25h round, 767th player selected) signed with the Marlins over the weekend and according to the club, he has been assigned to the Gulf Coast Marlins, where he will join Rogers (36th round, 1097th selection), who signed earlier. The Fish rookies are 3-3 so far this year.
RIce freshman Alec Hsu finished 13th in the pole vault at the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa on Thursday. Hsu, who completed his freshman season for the Owls and posted a best in the vault of 5.22//17-1.5 in May, cleared 4.80/15-9 on his second attempt and then missed all three vaults at 4.90/16-0 3/4.
"This was a great learning experience for Alec," Rice vaulting coach David Butler said. "When you are young and placed in more stressful situations, you tend to revert back to old habits, and that's what happened to him today. He's still young, so this was an important step for him."
Jason Colwick, Alex Hsu and Funmi Jimoh will be competing at the US Track and Field Championships this week in Des Moines, Iowa. Hsu will be up first, competing in the US Junior Championship pole vault on Thursday, June 24 at 5:15 p.m. Colwick will compete for a national title the following day, with the men's vaulting competition set to start at 5:45. Jimoh will compete in the women's long jump on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Coverage of the national championships will be divided between ESPN and NBC. ESPN will run a two hour block of coverage on Friday night from 8-10 p.m and will be back for a 1 1/2 hour block of coverage on Saturday from 1-2:30. NBC picks up the coverage on Saturday from 3-4 p.m.
No links to results have been posted as of yet, but we'll pass them along as soon as they emerge.
Two weeks ago, Cameron Nwosu, Ian Gray and James Radcliffe took part in an all-star game (Bayou Bowl) and four of their fellow Rice signees have been tabbed to play in the Texas Coaches All Star game, which will be played in the Alamodome on July 20th. Gabe Baker will be playing in his hometown and be joined by Andy Erickson, Bryce Callahan and Drew Carroll.
Buttacavoli shot an even par 142 over two qualifying rounds of stroke play held on Monday and Tuesday on the links of the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers. After firing a two-under par 69 at Berwick during Round 1 play, Buttacavoli shot a 73 at Muirfield on Tuesday.
The tournament has attracted one of the strongest international fields ever assembled as players from the United States, Europe, South Africa and Australasia are competing for an amateur championship which includes invitations to the 2010 British Open and the 2011 Masters Tournament.
Buttacavoli was one of just three golfers from the USA to qualify for match play. The top 64 scores plus ties from stroke play advanced to match play which began on Wednesday.
In Round 2 of match play, Buttacavoli lost to Alan Dunbar (Rathbone), 2 & 1.
Three members of the Owls incoming class of football recruits took part in the 2010 Bayou Bowl, leading the Texas squad to a 42-15 win over a team from Louisiana at Stallworth Stadium in Baytown.
Offensive lineman Ian Gray and linebackers Cameron Nwosu and James Radcliffe saw extensive action as the Texans scored the last 28 points of the game. Nwosu led all defenders for either team with 10 tackles (two for loss) and stopped a Louisiana drive by stripping the ball away from a ballcarrier and recovering the fumble inside the 10. Radcliffe was credited with five tackles. All three will report to Rice to begin classes and summer workouts.
For a sport that often toils before empty stands, with only each other to acknowledge the sum total of their efforts in 10 events over two days, the competitors in the 2010 NCAA Decathlon had already experienced a lifetime of memories thanks to the track-mad faithful at Hayward Field.
Philip Adam of Rice never had the pleasure of fans offering support when he prepared for his first attempt in the long jump, the second event of the two-day competition. Yet there were over 1,000 in the stands, thanks to an appeal from Oregon officials, having survived downpours in during the 10 am start of competition.
"You never see that for the decathlon, except maybe in Europe," Adam said. "But here were all these people out there in the morning on the first day of competition.All of the guys were really jazzed up by the support for our event."
The hidden secret of the decathlon is that despite NCAA titles and All American rankings on the line, the competition is never between athletes, but between each athlete and the demands of each event.
"Jon Warren (Rice head men's coach) says it best," Adam said. "We are the worst of enemies and the best of friends.We all want to do our best, the score in each event comes from how you perform. It's never about a head-to-head thingbetween guys."
As he prepared for the final event of the two-day grind, Adam knew that his first potential All American ranking hung in the balance. But as he limbered up and went through his final preparations, he could be seen smiling and sharing a word with Wesley Bray of Houston, who has traded conference multi-event titles with Adam throughout his career.
"That wasn't unusual at all.Most of the talk is always about what someone is trying to do.Everyone is asking around, wanting to know what guys are going for."
While Adam and Bray were looking for a way to improve their placing,Ackley was about to take a painful trip around the track for nothing more than the pride of knowing he would complete his last competition on his home track.
He had injured his hamstring during the pole vault, the eighth event of the day, and ignored his own trainers' instructions to pull out of the competition.He bravely ground out his throws in the javelin and then took his place on the starting line to complete the final 1,500 meters of his career on one good hamstring.
While Adam and the others raced ahead, chasing for the best time possible, Ackley bravely covered the distance with nothing in mind but finishing what he had started. As he came around the far turn and headed home for the last time, the record crowd of over 11,000 thundered its appreciation of his effort.
Adam hit the finish in 4:36.06, good enough for fifth in the event and the 705 points that time generated placed him 9th in the final standings.But rather than stop to contemplate if his performance was good enough to post a career- best or earn him All American status, he joined with his other competitors at the finish line to wait for Ackley.
Some two minutes later, with the crowd cheering madly, Ackley completed his run in 7:04.56, adding63 points to his total, butpresenting the meet and the decathletes with a moment of far greater impact.
"There was no doubt in any of our minds that he would finish," Adam said."The principal of finishing what you start is something we all understand.We are all a bunch of buddies who happen to be competing together.We're always there for each other
"I worked with Rick (Greenspan) at Indiana, but we have known each other for more than 30 years.When I saw that he was back in the saddle as the Athletics Director here, I was thrilled for him.I knew that he had landed at a great place and it was somewhere I wanted to be.I told my wife that if an opportunity came up here at Rice, I certainly wanted to do pursue it.
"I was familiar with Houston from my time at Texas A&M (where he completed his Ph.D in 1985), and I enjoyed my time in Texas.We actually might have more family that lives down here now than we do back in the Midwest. I didn't remember Houston as feeling quite this large when I was here before.But we are excited to be here. Our daughter, her husband and our grandsons live in Chicago, and I have already checked out all those flights from Midway Airport to Hobby.That will be an easy trip for them.Our dogs are probably the ones who are making the biggest adjustment.They were used to being in a more rural environment, and they don't know what to make of all the people and traffic.
"Obviously Indiana was a larger school in terms of total number of students, but there is not a large difference in terms of the athletics department. We have about the same number of sports and student athletes, so the challenges as an administrator are similar. Throughout my time in administration, the greatest motivator has always been the time I have spent with the student-athletes.I look forward to continuing that experience here at Rice."
Whlie the future of college football dominates the airwaves, tweetwaves and phone lines, three members of Rice's incoming freshman class will actually play a little football on Saturday night.
James Radcliffe, Cameron Nwosu and Ian Gray will be on the Texas roster for the Texas side in the 2010 Bayou Bowl. Radcliffe and Nwosu had previously been announced, while Gray was recently added to the roster.
Kickoff is set for 8 pm on Saturday night, and the game will also be broadcast by Fox Sports. Check your listings to see if your regional version of FSN will pick up the telecast. For your viewing pleasure, Racliffe will wear #22, Nwosu #33 and Gray will be the very large man wearing #75 will be the 6-8, 325 pound Gray.
USA Baseball has announced the finalists for the 2010 Golden Spikes Award and in keeping with their stated purpose of honoring the the top amateur baseball player in the country, as opposed to the top college player, overall #1 pick in the MLB Draft Bryce Harper is among the five players who remain in contention.
Despite his status as the two-time C-USA Player of the Year, Anthony Rendon did not make the cut, but UCF's Chris Duffy was included.
Worth noting, Harper is the fourth non-D1 player to become a finalist for the Golden Spikes, joining Alex Fernandez (Miami Dade CC [JUCO], 1990), Michael Tucker (Longwood [Division II], 1992) and Alex Rodriguez (Westminster Christian High School [Fla.], 1993). Fernandez remains the only junior college and non-Division I player to ever win the award.
While trying to decipher exactly what Rider coach Barry Davis meant when he said the Broncs were overmatched against the Owls on Saturday but not against UT on Friday night ...
1. Owls So. 3B Anthony Rendon is good - really good. Better than the 18th-best player in America good. Better than Second Team All-American good. When someone finds another player with these numbers - .400/.534/.818 with 26 HR and 85 RBIs - please send an alert. If/when that player is uncovered, check and see if he's made just five errors at a premium defensive position, has drawn 63 walks to just 22 strikeouts, and has 82 runs and 85 hits.
2. Texas coach Augie Garrido was planning to pitch So. RHP Taylor Jungmann in the winner's bracket game on Saturday night only if the Owls were the opponent. When Rice initiated its assault on Rider Saturday afternoon, word suddenly leaked that Jr. RHP Cole Green, not Jungmann, would pitch against Louisiana-Lafayette later than evening. If that doesn't provide clear indication of how much Garrido respects the Owls' offense, nothing will.
3. Owls Sr. RHP Mark Haynes has it 'below the belt.' OK, that phrase is usually reserved for former Owls RHP Bobby Bell, but Haynes was remarkable against the Broncs on Saturday. He didn't get long to warm up prior to entering the game with two outs in the fourth inning, but after allowing three of the first six batters he faced to reach base, Haynes bore down in the unrelenting heat. After Rider 2B A.J. Albee hit a two-out double to left in the sixth, Haynes retired the last seven batters he faced to cap a season-long 4 1/3 inning stint on the bump.
4. Owls RS So. LF Michael Fuda has figured something out at the plate. Anyone notice the drastic downturn in strikeouts for Fuda? He's punched out once over his last 11 games and 38 at-bats, and is batting .421 with four extra-base hits and three walks during that stretch.
5. The OG enjoys gamesmanship. First he said Sr. RHP Mike Ojala would start the Owls' second elimination game of the Austin Regional on Sunday, then he reiterated that the Owls have to win that game to play again Sunday night and that, yes, Ojala would start. Upon learning that Garrido had held Jungmann for the first championship game, The OG recanted and claimed he'll reconsider his decision overnight. Clearly The OG is playing mind games, but the serious question is this: Can the Owls defeat ULaLa with Jr. RHP Boogie Anagnostou on the bump? Can they score enough runs off RHP Joey Satriano (3-0, 2.53 ERA, .254 BAA, 1.32 WHIP+) or RHP Michael Cook (3-2, 4.17 ERA, .273 BAA, 1.65 WHIP+) or LHP Taylor Hubbell (4-3, 3.86 ERA, .218 BAA, 1.17 WHIP+) to justify holding Ojala for the Longhorns?
For those in need of a heaping dose of sunshine and roses following the loss to ULaLa there's this: At least the Owls won't have to face Texas So. RHP Taylor Jungmann this weekend.
Shutout defeats, especially 1-0 losses, tend to inspire hand-wringing and second-guessing. The OG made a couple logical adjustments to his lineup yet the baseball gods refused to cooperate. Drop slumping So. DH Jeremy Rathjen down in the order and he still comes to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth (Rathjen failed to check his swing and was punched out by first base umpire Blake Jensen, the first of two times Jensen called Rathjen out in a critical spot). Elevate Sr. 1B Jimmy Comerota to the 2-hole where his skills are perfectly suited and Comerota hits into a 4-6-3 double play in the first, grounds out to second base for a second time with two runners on in the third, pops up a bunt attempt after Jr. RF Chad Mozingo reached to open the sixth, and grounds out to the mound with two teammates in scoring position to close the seventh. Comerota played defense like a wizard, but his 0-for-4 day at the plate was the kind of performance that leads to Ambien addiction.
Sr. RHP Jared Rogers pitched brilliantly in extending his scoreless innings streak to 21 2/3 innings, but two minor miscues in the eighth cost him dearly. First, he failed to properly execute a pickoff of ULaLa CF Kyle Olasin with one out, surrendering the ball too quickly to So. 3B Anthony Rendon instead of running directly at Olasin to send him back to second base. Because of that, Jordan Poirrier advanced into scoring position as Yakety Sax played in the background while the Owls chased Olasin to and fro. Mistake No. 2 came when Rogers failed to pitch around Cajuns cleanup hitter Chad Keefer, who promptly roped a single into right field that scored the lone run of the game. Rogers' magnificence was undermined by those two errors in judgement - well that and the fact that he got absolutely zero run support.
Nothing more needs to be said regarding the Owls' inconsistency; it is what it is. How a team can score 57 runs in 28 at-bats one week then follow that with 13 scoreless innings is a mystery, but that's what the Owls have done. They made ULaLa Sr. RHP Zach Osborne look like Southern Miss Sr. RHP Scott Copeland, their personal boogeyman, on Friday at The Disch. The Osborne line: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K, 2 HB and 135 manly pitches. It was the sort of dominance afforded Armando Galarraga against the Indians, not a 3-seed against a preseason top-5 team. It was surprising, but then again, it fit the tapestry of the '10 campaign.
And now the Owls have to win four games in three days to salvage their season. That means they'll need four starters in addition to Rogers. The OG said in the postgame presser that he was leaning toward starting So. LHP Taylor Wall against Rider, which would leave Jr. RHP Boogie Anagnostou and Sr. RHP Mike Ojala to start what everyone hopes are two contests on Sunday. Perhaps you start Boogie against the Cajuns because they feature so many righthanded batters, but shouldn't you be able to beat Rider with Boogie, or even Johnny Wholestaff? Firmly entrenched in the loser's bracket means the Owls have to play to beat the Broncs while also eyeing an espace route out of Austin. That's a difficult task to manage, but you get what you deserve when you go down so meekly in your NCAA Tournament opener.
But who's to say that the Owls won't go on an offensive tear against the Broncs' No. 2 starter and the Cajuns' No. 3 (assuming 1 Texas beats ULaLa on Saturday night)? That scenario sounds totally plausible, and if the Owls can get to Sunday night with Ojala in their back pocket ready to face the Longhorns, all bets are off. Doubt this team at your own peril, but if the past 60 games have taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected with these Owls.
I planned to reference this set of statistics presented by the esteemed Boyd Nation the other day but it slipped my mind. While statistics are cruel, heartless and devoid of emotion, the search for a medium between absolute production and stats' influence on perception intrigues.
While 1 Texas opened the season as the consensus No. 1 team in the nation, 2 Rice was a consensus top-5 program. The Longhorns have lived up to that advanced billing, riding a 21-game win streak to the No. 2 national seed in the NCAA Tournament. Most observers would claim that the Owls underperformed relative to their talent, not only failing to secure a national seed for the NCAAs but a slot as a regional host. Injuries played a minimal role in this unexpected result (Sr. C Diego Seastrunk missed a dozen games in late-February through early-March), so the fact remains that the Owls' roster is one featuring top-5 national talent.
So, taking the Owls' preseason perception in a vacuum and measuring that against how Texas was perceived and how it actually performed, is Rice deserving of better than a 22% chance of winning the Austin Regional? How about if one factors in the Owls' 7-3 record against Texas over the prior 10 series meetings? Bill Parcells said you are what your record says you are, but if the Owls were a top-5 team without Sr. RHP Mike Ojala healthy and thriving, what are they now? Are they truly a 38-21 outfit, or is this a roster capable of a serious run to Omaha?
That is something to consider as you ponder which set of Owls will show this weekend at The Disch. Perhaps it isn't so much about inconsistency, but rather this team finally fulfilling its vast potential. There are moments when the Owls' confidence appears brazen given the results of the regular season, but in the final analysis why shouldn't they possess a certifiable swagger? They were viewed by most pundits as the fifth-best team in the nation coming into this season, and now that they are as healthy as they have been at any point in 2010, they have every reason to believe that they can defeat the behemoth that is the Longhorns. The talent gap between No. 1 and No. 5 isn't that significant. It certainly isn't worth 54.5 percentage points.
And now, some interesting quotes from the Owls' pre-regional presser:
"Texas may have the best pitching staff in the history of Division I. Our 2003 staff would probably stack up fairly well with them, but this is a great pitching staff at Texas this year."
-- The OG on the Longhorns' utter mound dominance. Texas paces the nation in ERA (2.53).
"You can't talk about someone being the best compared to (Lance) Berkman until they do it over a long period of time. Certainly at this stage of his career, Anthony is equal to anybody we've ever had."
-- The OG on the mounting comparisons of So. 3B Anthony Rendon to former Rice All-American Lance Berkman. Without delving too deep into conversations The OG and I have had on this subject, I should point out that The OG was quick to acknowledge that Rendon plays a premium defensive position, and that he does so with precision and extraordinary flair.
"We have to approach it the way we've played these past few weeks. I feel like we're more focused. We were so inconsistent earlier that it was easy for us to lose focus. I think now that we've gotten through those challenges and we've overcome the up-and-down part of the season, these guys are ready. I think they're ready to take on that task, underdog or not."
-- Sr. C Diego Seastrunk on the Owls opening regional play on the road for the first time in five seasons, and doing so as a decided underdog to regional host and No. 2 national seed Texas.
"It's definitely some incentive. We all have incentive when we come up here to Disch-Falk and get a chance to play up here against these guys. That's the thing: all the guys on the team have played together so it never really gets ugly. But we all have a little added incentive knowing the guys on the other side of the field."
-- Seastrunk on the rivalry with Texas. The Owls have played the Longhorns 11 times since Seastrunk joined the program in 2007 and have posted a 7-4 record against Texas during that span. In 10 games against the Longhorns, Seastrunk is batting .281 with 1 homer and 7 RBIs.
"I didn't see the ball at all at our park. He kept throwing me sliders and sliders, and I just kept fouling them off - I was on my front foot. On a 3-2 count I just threw the bat out there and it went over the left-field fence. I don't know how I did it."
-- Rendon, asked to describe his best and worst at-bat against Texas, on his leadoff home run off Texas Jr. RHP Kendal Carrillo in the fifth inning of the Owls' 10-6 win over Texas on March 16 at Reckling Park. The OG chimed in to note in a self-deprecating fashion, "I never did that."